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Wednesday, 24 October 1984
Page: 2329

Senator COOK —Has the Minister representing the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations seen claims by the Opposition and in particular by Mr Macphee that the Government has been misleading in its use of employment growth figures? Is there any substance to claims that most of the employment growth has been in the public sector?

Senator BUTTON —A number of misleading claims have been made in relation to the employment figures and in some cases they are totally untrue. I do not lay the charge of 'misleading' against Mr Macphee in any deliberate sense; I think he misunderstands the figures. Senator Crichton-Browne has raised this issue in the Senate a number of times. I am not sure of the status of his misleading information. During 1983-84 full time employment growth of 170,000 exceeded by some 75,000 people growth in the full time labour force, implying a fall in full time unemployment of this amount. Mr Macphee has confused the full time labour force with the total-that is, full time plus part time-labour force. In fact, the Australian Bureau of Statistics figures for September 1984 show that unemployment amongst people looking for full time work has fallen by 82,700, 15. 5 per cent, since March 1983, with a significant drop in the unemployment rate amongst these people from 10.6 per cent to 9 per cent over that period.

The Government's advertising, which has been the subject of attack, uses the 1983-84 financial year when over a longer period, such as the last 17 months, the increase in the number of jobs has been even greater-264,000-than shown in the advertisements about which Senator Macklin, for example, asked a question the other day. One can compare that with the record of the Opposition when in government. In the last full financial year of the coalition Government employment grew by only 400, compared with over 230,000 in the latest financial year under this Government. Employment growth is not now concentrated in the public sector as has been suggested, for example by Senator Crichton-Browne. The last published ABS figures for August 1984 show the following: Total employment levels are increasing at an exceptionally high annual rate of 3.5 per cent. Employment in the manufacturing sector is now increasing on an annual basis for the first time since May 1982. Employment in manufacturing grew by 9,400, or 0.8 per cent, over the year to August 1984.

Senator Missen —By what?

Senator BUTTON —Senator Missen interjects. I agree that it is not all one would wish for, but it is a turnaround; that is the important point. Employment growth has continued strongly in other key areas of the private sector. Employment in construction grew by 9 per cent during the year to August 1984. Jobs in the wholesale and retail trade sector grew by 4.5 per cent. Employment in the finance, property and business services sectors expanded by 7.8 per cent. Recreational and personal services grew by 7.5 per cent. Major public sector industry groups are community services, public administration, electricity, gas, water and so on. Over the year to August 1984 employment in these areas increased by 80,700 or 5.8 per cent. This represents only 36.5 per cent of the overall growth in employment. My answer relates both to the query raised by Senator Cook on the misunderstanding, I believe, in the figures which Mr Macphee presented and certainly to a substantial misapprehension revealed by Senator Crichton-Browne in his notice of motion given in the Senate today. These figures demonstrate the broad nature of the recovery in employment. That is something about which I have said on numerous occasions we cannot in any sense be complacent, but we can be gratified that that turn-round has taken place.